Growing Up in the Christian Community

Children have a natural and evolving relationship to God and to the earth. At birth they come to us from another home, their home with God. With us, they hope to find on earth a memory and a reflection of the home from which they have come.

The Christian Community offers several religious activities for children. First there is the Baptism. In this sacrament, the child is received like a seed into a community that promises to carry this child within itself, and to help nourish the child’s relationship with God. Baptism does not make the child a member of the church; for membership will be his or her free choice as an adult.

With their entry into first grade, children step into the wider community as a learners. Now religious instruction begins. It is given mostly in the form of stories, plays, songs and verses that show the divine wisdom in nature, in  the Old Testament history, and in the New Testament. For school age children, the practice of religion is now widened to include worshipping  together with other children at the Sunday Service for Children. The content emphasizes the importance of learning the great lesson of earthly life: that Christ is love’s teacher in life’s learning and work.

In the Sunday Service for Children, the heart gently awakens the will to worship God. In religious instruction, the heart gently awakens the head to the understanding of the working of God. These two complement and balance one another, developing the child’s religious life from both sides, in a way that will enable him or her later to make a free but informed choice about religion as an adult.

During the summer there are two-week children’s sleep-away camps and in some regions family camps. These constellations provide another level for the healthy weaving of the religious life into a communal life, forming a reservoir of inspiration for the children for the rest of their lives. Confirmation at age fourteen is both a culmination and a new beginning.  The seed of the young person’s religious life, which has been surrounded and nourished by the community, is released into life. The young person attends The Act of Consecration of Man as an independent adult, and at Confirmation receives his/her first Communion. After this, their attendance is their choice. Many still attend with their families. Much depends on whether there is a group of people their own age.

They may later want to become counselors in the children’s camps or to attend Youth Conferences or camps.  There are also International Youth Conferences where older teens and those in their twenties find their own connections before settling down into the more local communities as young adults. Often it is the arrival and Baptism of their own children which stimulates their re-entry as active participants and creators of the life of The Christian Community.

Thoughts on Life and Death

Human life and its death is a singular thing. Animals live, and then they die, and their life is done. They are simply absorbed back into the great mother soul of which their lives on earth were extensions.

But human life and death is different. Our births on earth are already a death. Part of our spiritual being dies into the world of matter. Our births are occasions of mingled hope and sadness for the angels who watch us drop away into the far country. Our birth on earth is a death in heaven.

But each of us is given a seed to take along with us on the journey. This seed is present from the day we are born, safely embedded in our physical nature. It slowly germinates during the course of our lives. It is a fearsome gift, but nonetheless most precious, for it guarantees that we will be able to find the doorway back into heaven again. It is the seed of death.

The gradual growth of the death seed in us means on the one hand a gradual damping down of the power of life in the body. But it is meant to be accompanied by a corresponding growth in the scope, the depth, the breadth of our our consciousness. As we age on earth our death seed is meant to be growing and ripening fruits of inner awareness for us to bring back to heaven. The fruits of

  • deep, rich memories of our past
  • of clear wakefulness in the present
  • of vigorous and enthusiastic plans for the future.

We meet the young man of Nain at the point of his earthly death. His fruits of past, present and future had fully ripened. He had brought to fruition all of his inwardness. And so his earthly life had come to its end. Seen from the outside this death is cause for weeping. But seen from the world of the angels, his death is cause for rejoicing; for as he was dying on earth, he was being born into the spiritual world;not merely absorbed back, like an animal, but born there again as a discrete entity bringing back ripened fruits from afar. The angels rejoiced at the arrival of this richly laden human soul in their midst.

Christ blesses the young man’s ripeness; and he empathizes with the suffering of those left behind-especially the mother, widowed and destitute, who has no future. Perhaps He recognizes that this particular man’s fruits are needed on the earth. And so the angels and perhaps even the young man himself, are asked to make a sacrifice.

Christ brings the young man’s ripeness back to earth. It is as though the young man is born again on earth, but this time out of the spirit. We can imagine the spiritual power of his words as he begins to speak.

Perhaps he would say, as does the poet:

Death is strange and hard
if it is not our death, but a death
that takes us by storm, when we’ve ripened none within us.*

He might remind us, as do the words of the burial service: that we are beholden to the spiritual world for every thing that we think and say and do.

In the depths of our being we know that the death seed within comes wrapped with this encouragement written in angelic script: Go forth, be fruitful, multiply your gifts of consciousness. And bring us back the fruits.

And we, musing:

We stand in your garden year after year.We are trees for yielding a sweet death.But fearful, we wither before the harvest.*

And, just beyond our ordinary hearing, they reply what angels always say:

“Fear not! Do not be afraid! Have no fear! For Christ, the Wakener of the Dead, is with you always.”

And so we pray:

God, give each of us our own death,
the dying that proceeds
from each of our lives

the way we loved
the meanings we made…*

*Rilke, Book of Hours

Prayers for Difficult Times, A Small Collection


We must root out of the soul all fear and horror of that which is approaching mankind from the future. How fearful and anxious man makes himself today before that which lies in the future, and especially before the hour of death! Man must make his own a calm composure in connection with all feelings and sensations directed toward the future, behold with absolute equanimity everything that may come, and think only that no matter what comes, it comes to us out of the wisdom-filled guidance of the world. This must be placed ever and again before the soul.

Rudolf Steiner, Nov. 27, 1910
(Beiträge #98, 1987, P. 21)

Prayer of St. Francis

Lord, make us instruments of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let us sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is discord, union;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.

For The Many Who Have Died

The Good Shepherd lead them
Where they are transformed
That they may breathe
The air of eternal Being.

Where they work as soul
For worlds to come
The grace of the Spirit
Unite us with them.

adapted from Adam Bittleston*

*Adam Bittleston, Meditative Prayers for Today, Floris Books

For the Ill

Hearts which love,
Sun which warms,
You footprints of Christ
In the Father’s Universe,
We call to you from our own hearts,
We search for you in our own spirits:
O stream toward him! [them]

Rays from human hearts,
Longing, warm with devotion
You homes of Christ
In the Father’s house of earth.
We call to you from our own hearts,
We search for you in our own spirits:
O live with him! [them]

Radiant human love
Warming sunshine.
You soul garment of Christ
in the Father’s human temple.
We call to you from our own hearts
We search for you in our own spirits:
O help within him![them]

Given by Rudolf Steiner for one severely ill.

For our Country

O Christ, you know
The souls and spirits
Whose deeds have woven
This country’s destiny.

May we who today
Are bearers of this destiny
Find the strength and the light
Of your servant Michael.

And our hearts be warmed
By your blessing, O Christ,
That our deeds may serve
Your work of world healing.

adapted from Adam Bittleston

Short Intercession
(for those who mourn)

May the Good Shepherd lead (him, her, them)
Into peace of heart
Into hopeful thinking,
Into patient strength of will;
Health of body,
Harmony of soul,
Clarity of spirit,
Now, and in the time to come.

Adam Bittleston

Approaching Christ in Freedom

The world of divine beings has enormous respect for our freedom. After all, God said, ‘Let us make the human being in our image and after our likeness. ’ Genesis 1:26 Since God is obviously a creator, and we are made in His image, made like Him, it follows that we were made to be creators as well. But how could we create, how could we be creative, if we did not have freedom of choice?

True freedom of choice also includes the choice to be destructive instead of creative. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be true freedom of choice. It even includes the choice not to decide. But its real creativity rests in our ability to make choices that support the good, the true and the beautiful.

Where freedom of choice really shines is in our ability to make choices that disregard our own instinct for self-preservation. We have the freedom to decide to give freely and lovingly to another, even to our own detriment. This kind of choice isn’t ‘natural’. It isn’t dictated by necessity. It is the expression of a true freedom of choice. It is an expression of our true humanity.

Christ, God’s Son, is the God who became a human being; He is our divine human brother. He confirmed that we are to exercise our God-given creative freedom of choice, our creative freedom to decide. ‘You shall be as gods’, He said. John 10:34. He was quoting Psalm 82, which says ‘You are “gods”; you are all sons of the Most High.’

He said to those becoming His students, that in studying with Him, ‘Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’ John 8:32.

He also said of Himself, “I am the way, the truth, the life.” John 14:6.

Therefore, to approach Christ is to approach the truth; and at the same time to approach Christ is to approach the truth of our humanity. For our true humanity resides in our ability to make creative choices, self-forgetting choices, good moral choices uninfluenced by outer necessity. To approach the truth that resides in Christ, is at the same time to approach the very freedom that lies at the core of our God-given humanity. ‘Then you will know the truth [Me], and the truth [I, Christ] will set you free.’ John 8:32.

In the Act of Consecration of Man, the Communion service of The Christian Community, we pray that the Son God be the creative force in us. We also pray for the gift of the creating fire of love. Real love, capable of setting oneself aside, operates out of a truly human depth of freedom. It is indeed Christ’s self-sacrificing love, working in us, that ignites a creative fire in us. He is the guide for our use of our freedom.

Nevertheless, Christ, the Divine Human, has enormous respect for our freedom to choose. ‘Here I am!’ He says. ‘I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me’. Rev. 3:20 He stands outside, and knocks, and waits.

Seeking One’s True Self at the Altar

“Philosophy of Freedom #8” by Laura Summer

In the Sunday Service for the Children, we hear that we have come to earth to learn and to work. We hear that human life becomes desolate without enlivening force of love in our work. We hear that Christ is love’s Teacher. For the children, a direction and focus for any life is gently indicated—learning to develop love as a capacity.

One can see the communion service for adults, the Act of Consecration of Man, as an extension of the path suggested in childhood. For, by its very nature, this Act is an offering of self to God. We offer our purest thoughts, our heart’s love, and a will devoted to Him, to Him who is the very essence of love. We perform an act that He asked us to do in memory of Him—the offering in gratitude of substances of earth—bread, water, wine, to our Father, so that He can be present in them.

We bind our noble thoughts, feelings and devotion to the substances that we, too, are offering, noting that we do so in connection with the working of the Trinity. We pray that the Son God be the creative force in us. We pray for the gift of the creating fire of love.

Christ comes to dwell in them, to concentrate His power in them, in such a way that, through taking in His substances in communion, we can take the creating fire of His love as well, and He can be present in us. He, whose whole life was Love incarnate, sacrifices Himself ever and again for our well-being, for the nourishment and strengthening of the creating power of love in us. Christ dies again and again. But He, the essence of Love, rises again in the hearts of those who give Him a dwelling place.

Our truest, deepest self, our true being, resides in this capacity to develop creative love. Our true self is capable of transforming our narrow egotism into a broader concern for the furtherance of the world. This capacity exists in us as potential, as a seed planted in us by God. At the altar, in any of the sacraments, but especially in the Act of Consecration of Man, this potential to develop love, the characteristic of our truest self, is nurtured and strengthened.

Paul says, ‘your life is now hidden with Christ in God’. Col 3:3 Our true being, our true creative potential, resides with Christ. At the altar we practice offering ourselves to Him in love, taking Him into our selves. At the altar, we are nurturing and developing the life of our true self, with His help. For our true self is Christ, creating Love, in us.

God Becomes Perceptible in the Sacraments

The sacraments are liturgical acts performed by the community, in which the working of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy, Healing Spirit can become visible and audible.

In the Baptism, substances of water, salt and ash are re-united with their original power. They are brought into relationship with the qualities of the Father’s substance, the Son’s renewal, and the Spirit’s light. These regenerated substances are then inscribed on the head and breast of the child, that heaven and earth may come together in a fruitful way in his or her life.

In the Confirmation, we see and hear Christ’s intimate companionship on the young person’s individual path of life; He brings light, power, guidance and comfort.

In the Sacrament of Consultation, the renewed confession, we can hear the words of Christ, in Whose heart the red threads of all human destinies are joined. He encourages us to learn to offer and to receive.

In the Act of Consecration of Man, the communion service, Christ becomes visible in the elevation of bread and wine, transformed into His Body and His Blood, vessels of His Life. He becomes audible in His prayer, the Lord’s Prayer, and in His promise of peace.

In Marriage, the couple’s decision to join two lives together is strengthened in a way that creates the space for a third entity. This space is a place where Christ can appear, as His loving power of sacrifice.

In the Sacraments around death—a Sacrament of Consultation, a Communion and an Anointing— Christ accompanies our crossing of the threshold between earthly life, and the life after earthly life. We hear the words He speaks to His Father the night before He dies, His prayer for us. He opens the eye of the soul to life after life.

In the Ordination of Priests, embedded in the Act of Consecration of Man, the power to celebrate all the sacraments is conferred as a gift from the divine world. The candidate’s soul forces of thinking, feeling and willing are linked to the Trinity, so that the words and actions of the Trinity, and Christ especially, can be conveyed to the congregation in the sacraments.

Finding One’s True Self at the Altar

Spiritual seekers of all traditions and times strive to access a realm, which lies beyond our everyday reality. Often the entry into this realm is connected with an altered or extended experience of the self. A transformed self-consciousness goes hand in hand with an understanding of the spiritual world. Accordingly living with the Act of Consecration of Man and the other sacraments of the Christian Community very often gently changes over time the relationship to the world and to our selves. Our understanding of the spiritual is deepened. What is happening at the altar and in our communities that allows this to take place?
Before we can answer this question it might be helpful to look at other traditions and their way to change the experience of the self. Following old teachings the Zen master Guishan Lingyu asked his pupils to contemplate a riddle:

“Tell me in one word what your original being was before your parents gave you birth and prior to your capacity to discriminate things.”

In their effort to answer, the students will be led back in time to the origins of their existence. Questions like this might come up: Where were we before we started thinking? Where were we before we received a physical body? Did your experience of the self exist before you were born?

Going back to the origins in the described way can bring us to a point where we might feel that our individual every day thinking does not lead us anywhere but into nothingness. We might conclude that going back in time we did not exist at all as an individual self; or that we were an unidentifiable integral part of a “great cosmic consciousness” before we were born. As a result the experience of our self may be perceived as a transient illusion, which will not lead us to higher knowledge.

Another way to gain a new relationship to our selves is, not by going back to our origins like the Buddhist teacher suggests, but by being aware of our selves in the present moment. The contemporary spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle describes this as a life changing personal experience:

“For years my life alternated between depression and acute anxiety. One night I woke up in a state of dread and intense fear, more intense than I had ever experienced before. Life seemed meaningless, barren, hostile. It became so unbearable that suddenly the thought came into my mind, “I cannot live with myself any longer.” The thought kept repeating itself several times. Suddenly, I stepped back from the thought and looked at it, as it were, and I became aware of the strangeness of that thought: “If I cannot live with myself, there must be two of me – the I and the self that I cannot live with.” And the question arose, “Who is the ‘I’ and who is the self I cannot live with?”

Tolle describes how with this experience of an “observing uninflected self “ his “unhappy everyday self” collapsed and stopped to play the major role in his life. He calls the newly found liberating entity in himself the “I AM”.

In this spiritual experience the suffering “everyday-self” becomes a stepladder to a new awareness of a second self, which is always there. It was just not perceived before. The “lower self” starts to acknowledge the “higher self” as a living reality and authority.

Initially in a very similar way the Sacraments can promote a transforming experience. Central is here the celebration of the Act of Consecration of Man. This is a collaborative happening, in which everybody present is equally invited to engage in the process by being fully there, with all senses, awake in the present moment. The foundation of the Act of Consecration is a sensual experience, honoring the presence of our so-called “lower self”. But when the first words are spoken another layer is added to our participation: “Let us worthily fulfill the Act of Consecration of Man…” The participant will soon realize that this is a challenge. Distracting thoughts come and go; the feeling of tiredness can be overwhelming. But if the will and interest is there to contribute to the service actively than sooner or later a living awareness of the self will develop which is comparable to the experience of Eckhart Tolle. One can realize that there are “two of me” – “the self which distracts itself” and “the self, which can tune in, which feels perfectly at one with what is said.” This realization might be accompanied with the feeling that through attending the Act of Consecration inner turbulences are calmed down and a growing sense for one’s owns life direction is developed. This is because- like Tolle – we consciously or unconsciously also start to live more intensely with the question: “Who is the I? The true self? And the Act of Consecration of Man starts to offer answers. The perception of our lower self, our higher self and the being of Christ start to merge in our experience. That can be very inspiring because it gives us ideas about our future as humanity and individuals. Where are we going? What am I called to do? So instead of leading us solely to the origins of our existence all sacraments invite us to see the future aspects of human evolution as well. We engage in a process in which we are allowing our every day consciousness to have a conversation with the eternal in us.As observers of this conversation we learn to embrace and to nourish in us the Christ consciousness, which lives in the renewed sacraments.

This inner conversation can be further deepened in the Sacrament of Consultation.

Lindy Lee, Sources of the Self, 2006,

See Original Teachings of Ch’an Buddhism [trans. Chang Chung-Yuan] Pantheon Books, New York 1969, p. 219.

Source online: The Present Moment and the End of Suffering with Eckhart Tolle

Responsibility in Redemption

It is an ancient debate: how much responsibility does a human being have for his or her own redemption? For redeeming others? For redeeming the earth? One picture is to see ourselves as overshadowed by an all-powerful God who is “running the show” and “calling the shots”. Over time, human beings let things get into such a mess that God had to send His Son to straighten everything out for us. One simply needs to recognize that this is so, even on an individual scale, and to align oneself somehow with divine intention.Not a bad start.

And one could also take the view that this picture of God as parent (after all, we call Him our Father), is a relationship that changes over time, just like its earthly counterpart does. The younger the child, the more the parent needs to structure its life so that the child gets what it needs in order to grow into an independent, responsible adult. Gradually, as the child matures, the parent can entrust ever greater responsibility to it for the running of its own life. Mistakes are great learning opportunities.

But once the child has grown into an adult, it would be disrespectful, or even insulting, to treat the adult as a child. It would even show the parent’s own lack of faith in its own parenting.

One could think of humankind as a whole as having reached its young adult phase. At this point, the Father has withdrawn from exercising His parental prerogatives with us because that would be disrespectful with his grown children. The choice for deciding to join in the work of redemption in this time period has been given over into ever-maturing human hands. Mistakes are great learning opportunities.

Yet God has not turned his back on us in this: God has given us a peer, an older brother, who is willing to walk with us, if we will have Him. This brother can give us guidance and help us along the redemptive path, since He knows the Father’s heart, the Father’s intentions for the world.

He, Christ, God’s Son, is our brother. He can teach us how best to exercise the responsibilities we have for helping to redeem ourselves, to redeem others, to redeem the earth.

We contribute to our own redemption by increasing our self-awareness. We contribute to redemption with an objective awareness of both our maturing strengths and our weaknesses. Working with those strengths and weaknesses in ourselves, with Christ’s help, will aid us in our maturing. Examining, for example, that in certain situations I end up angry, or sad, or behaving badly, and finding ways to overcome that, is my part in the work of my redemption. Christ will add His strength to our efforts. Deciding to find ways to increase my strengths, especially in service of others will be supported by Christ. I learn to work responsibly with and on myself.

It is such inner work that will then rightly allow us find ways to help redeem others. The work in twelve step programs is an example of such redemptive working with others. And such strengthening of self-awareness will also ultimately lead us to find ways of redeeming the fallen nature of all the kingdoms of the earth.

For as Paul, an individual who worked closely with our Brother, says, “All around us creation waits with great longing that the sons of God shall begin to shine forth in mankind….For the breath of freedom will also waft through the kingdoms of creation; the tyranny of transitory existence will cease. When the sphere of the Spirit grows bright, unfreedom will be replaced by the freedom which is intended for all God’s offspring.” Romans 8:19,21, The New Testament, a rendering, by Jon Madsen.

Renewing Christian Community

The Creed of The Christian Community contains the line: Communities, whose members feel the Christ within themselves, may feel united in a church to which all belong who are aware of health-bringing power of the Christ.

This thought starts with the fact of individuals who are aware of Christ’s healing power working within themselves. What this might mean may be slightly different for any given person.

For the one, it may be the awareness that ever and again, he or she rises out of fatigue or illness to renewed strength and health. He becomes aware that the name for this resurrecting, healing force at work within is Christ.

For another it may mean an awareness that, despite considerable failings and shortcomings, she knows that she is loved and somehow carried. And she knows and recognizes that the name for this force of surrounding love is Christ.

For another it may mean looking back over one’s life so far, and recognizing in it a coherence, a meaningful pattern. In this coherent pattern, one might see that even, the valleys became places of change, and of transformation. And one sees that these transformations, these resurrections into something new, is the Christ’s will working to heal our lives.

Out of this kind of awareness, individuals can feel themselves united in a community with others who also are aware of His healing power. Such communities and their members can together be a part of a larger, an invisible church beyond churches. This invisible supra-church is not a church founded on belief; nor is it a church based on dogma or teachings; it is a church grounded in awareness, based on experience.

It is this experience, this awareness of Christ’s healing power in one’s own life, and in the lives of others, that is the true basis of Christian community. Despite our possible differences in belief, in temperament, in thinking, we are united in our experience of Christ as a healing force in our lives. We can recognize Him at work in others. This is the real basis for Christian community. And through such Christian communities, we can possibly become conduits for His healing power in all the various communities to which we belong.

Becoming Truly Human

We often use the term ‘only human’ to convey our weaknesses and our failings. But there is a further dimension to our being human. It is a dimension connected with the future, and with developing and expanding our specifically human potential.

We all have a physical, material form. In this, we are like the rest of the mineral world. This physical form, our body, is moreover alive; it breathes, it reproduces, it metabolizes. In these living functions, we have capacities that we share with the plants. We also have feelings and emotions; we act and react; we perceive and cognize. In this we are akin to the animals.

What is left? Where are we uniquely human?

One of the places in which we are uniquely human is in our self-awareness. We are aware of ourselves, as a self, as a unique and more or less discrete entity. We have a memory of that self that goes back to early childhood. Furthermore, this self-aware self is capable of learning to do what it cannot yet, to be what it is not yet. This capacity is far greater than what can be trained in an animal.

This self is also capable of shame (self-judgment), and is capable of conscience, of knowing what kinds of decisions I can or ought to make in the future. Animals act and react by instinct (so do we, sometimes, out of our animal nature). But human beings can act as a sole result of their thinking. And thinking is a basis for creativity.

This is because human beings can make decisions. They can decide to over-ride their natural instinct for self-preservation. They can decide to overcome the instinct for preservation of the species if necessary. Human beings can set goals and figure out the steps to realize those goals. They can create works of art. They can try to consciously serve what is good, what is true, what is beautiful.

Human beings can also decide to put someone else first. In other words, human beings can decide to over-ride their plant and animal natures and can consciously participate in their own further evolution.

So, becoming truly human is not merely to rue our failings and weaknesses. Rather, becoming truly human involves building the strength of our self-awareness and the power to carry through on our decisions in creative ways.

At the same time, becoming truly human involves developing the capacity, paradoxically, to override our own naked self-interest, and to learn to sacrifice, to make an offering for the benefit of others.

In the Sunday Service for the Children, we hear that human life becomes desolate and empty without love. We also hear that Christ is the Teacher of Love. To become truly human is to become a student on the Christ path. On this path we are learning how to love, creatively. We set ourselves upon this path when we decide to carry out our intention to evolve ourselves along a trajectory of love.

Where are we uniquely human? In those moments when our creative self shines forth selflessly.

Teaching/Learning Receiving the Message
Offering/Giving Offertory
Changing/Transforming Transubstantiation
Uniting Communion